Workshop tackles ways to help the homeless

About 20 community members gathered at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa on Saturday morning, sitting at a work table to learn about resources available to those living on the streets.

Some felt the need to reach out to those living on the streets. Others began at the Check-In Center off Newport Boulevard, where homeless people can store their belongings, and wanted to be able to connect those they meet with resources for getting out of homelessness.

Everyone who came together at Rock Harbor on Red Hill Avenue this weekend expressed a common interest: deepening their understanding on what the homeless face.

Saturday's Homelessness 101 workshop —part of the Churches Consortium — began with a video in which the former "homelessness czar" Philip Mangano addressed a group at the Fuller Theological Seminary. In his talk, Mangano said handouts dominated the faith-based approach to homelessness between 1975 and 2000, and continuing to do so would be akin to writing on a Smith Corona typewriter with today's technology.

Instead, churches need to focus their limited resources on doing one thing well, Mangano said in the video. Targeting the most vulnerable and providing them with housing has proven effective, he said.

Mangano also pointed to a University of San Diego study that followed 15 homeless people for 18 months, which found that the 15 people were more expensive to have on the streets than in supportive housing. The cost to the public to care for the emergency room visits, jail stays and police calls for those 15 people added up to $3 million.

One of the driving forces behind the Churches Consortium's approach to homelessness has been empowering people to get out of homelessness rather than providing charity. Instead of sandwiches in the park, the Churches Consortium introduced showers, storage and laundry for the homeless in 2012. Soon, organizers hope to host an ID clinic, connecting the homeless with identifying information necessary to get jobs.

Each city needs to provide for their own to tackle homelessness, said Susan Sassone, who is on the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and works at the Donald Dungan Library near Lions Park.

"If each city did their own thing, it would make a huge difference," she said.

Sassone attended Saturday's workshop because she would like to provide those in need with more resources.

"It's a feeling of frustration that I cannot offer some of the homeless that come to the library more help," she said.

"I've seen personal stories that are happy stories so I want to see more of those," she said.

Those in attendance learned about the differences between able, unable and resistant homeless. Able homeless are temporarily without a home and need things like rapid rehousing to get back on their feet.

The unable, the chronic homeless who often suffer mental illness or other ailments, would benefit most from supportive housing, while the resistant have likely been on the streets longer and the best way to help them begins with relationship building.

Becks Heyhoe, the director of the Churches Consortium, said part of this weekend's workshop was aimed at directing the good intentions of local churches into actions that will get people off the streets.

"The moral impetus in the faith-based community is there — it will never go away," she said.

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